Among the Presidents who have occupied the White House since my birth, President Barack Obama is one of the most literate. Historians who write about the American presidency after 2017 will be obligated to note that Obama tried to “write an honest account of a particular province” of his life in Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995; New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004), and that he called for a new kind of politics in The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming The American Dream (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2006). As they condemn or commend his policies and speeches, the wisest historians will not ignore that fact that he invited Elizabeth Alexander to bless his 2009 inauguration with a woman’s vision. Nor will they simply mention in passing that Richard Blanco gave some credibility to Obama’s virtue of tolerance in the 2013 inaugural poem. The most scholarly historians will dwell for more than a nanosecond on Tara T. Green’s conclusion in A Fatherless Child: Autobiographical Perspectives of African American Men (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2009) that “Obama, then, shows the possibilities of escaping the pressures of social pitfalls as much as he proves the importance of black communities in the late twentieth century providing homes for those wandering black sons in need of understanding, healing and love” (132). All of the historians will direct attention to Obama’s September 14, 2015 conversation with Marilynne Robinson.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr. October 27, 2015